CommunityHeroes Among Us


'I wanted to make a difference': Lexington woman spends free time cleaning up her community

Posted at 5:41 PM, Sep 05, 2023

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Last March, Teresa Rakes retired with plans of traveling and enjoying herself. But instead, she's been consumed with something else.

Teresa has found a hobby – picking up debris in her neighborhood.

"I had been picking up trash just randomly in the neighborhood; that's what I did," says Teresa. "I wanted to make a difference, so I'd take my little bucket and my grabber, and I'd go up the street until my bucket's full, and then I'd come home."

But it turned out those little trips weren't enough. Before she knew it, Teresa spent four hours a day, three times a week, cleaning up the junk people were leaving behind.

That's 12 hours a week – and sometimes more.

The sheer volume alone has been surprising.

"Yes, I'm totally shocked with the amount and the things I find. I have found some stuff!" she laughs. "I've found fence material over by the liquor store. We have a lot of broken glass down here. People have a fascination with throwing glass bottles in the air, I guess, and it's all over the place. I think the worst thing I ever found was a catheter bag."

One drive through the neighborhood, and the difference Teresa is making is noticeable.

"I think people are getting more awareness of what's going on. They're very appreciative. It is making a difference cause I get thank you's and people waving and honking as I'm down the street. Just about everybody knows who I am now."

I asked Teresa how this makes her feel, knowing she is making a difference.

"Wonderful! I don't want to say I'm proud of it, but it's like my baby. It's like it's a thing. I'm a poor person. I don't have a whole lot of money. I really don't. I find things that don't cost much of anything to get started", Teresa says.

Teresa does have a goal: To buy an industrial vacuum cleaner, which comes at a price tag of $3,000. She already has $1,200 collected and has a GoFundMe page named "Clean Up Oxford Circle" – hoping to collect the rest of the funds needed with the same skill that she collects the litter around her community.

"I think we've got the cleanest neighborhood in town!"